attempting to foster sibling unity

Friday, March 30, 2012

I have pretty high expectations for how I'd like my own kids to love, play, and fight with each other...and anyone who knows our family gets that because it's obvious that my parents knew what was up when it came to raising siblings that got along. There were things that I remember growing up that my parents did that taught us about loving and taking care of our sisters.  Like when we fought with each other, my mom always made us hug each other afterwards - which at the time was the absolute last possible thing we wanted to do, but once we hugged it became us vs. mom as we couldn't believe she would make us hug when we were so annoyed with each other; setting us back on a common ground.  I also remember throughout growing up hearing many times that "your sisters will always be there for you.  Your friends will come and go, but you will always have your sisters."

how many amazing early-90's fashion cliches are represented here?!  so fantastic.
Whatever other things they did or said while we were growing up, worked wonders because my sisters and I still have a relationship that makes other people ask us, "don't you guys ever fight?"  Which the answer to that is, yes - of course we fight occasionally, but we also know that we will never have a closer friend than each other, so we get over it pretty quick and get back to laughing and finishing each others' sentences.

And now I want the same kind of relationship for our own kids.  I want them to feel like they have built-in best friends that you play with, and fight with but at the end of the day you love and laugh with.  I want them to feel like they are part of our family as a whole and also that sometimes it is them (kids) versus us (parents). I want them to keep secrets from us and to stand up for each other and to simultaneously roll their eyes at us and look out for each other when Brandon and I can't be there.  And since a lot of these things can't really happen until they're more grown - we're doing everything we can to make sure that they know they're friends AND family right from the start.

Just like we've taught our son to drink from a cup and put his clothes in the laundry hamper, we want to also teach him how we play with and take care of his sister (as in how our family plays with and takes care of each other).  Mostly we're just making sure they spend time together during the day, but more specifically, here are some of the ways we are trying to foster this feeling of sibling friendship and love.  [For reference, this is what we're doing as Greyson is almost 2 years old and Gemma is a newborn.]

1. Playtime:  We encourage Greyson to include his baby sister while he plays.  I read books with both kids in my lap while Gemma is awake after she eats.  Grey even "reads" books to her (and the dogs).  We ask Greyson to show Gemma how her toys work (like rattles and blocks).  When Gemma is "too little" to do something Grey is doing (like playing basketball or coloring), we let Gemma "watch" how Greyson does it so when she gets bigger they can play together.  We also invite Greyson to join in on Gemma's playtime/waketime; which right now consists of him watching her look around saying, "Whatya doin, Baby Gemma?" and singing songs to her.

Greyson "reading" to his siblings
Showing Gemma how her rattle can make "beautiful music"

the 2 of them chatting away in our bed in the morning
Greyson counting for Gemma
2. Physical Closeness.  We make sure Grey and Gemma get time to spend near each other, which means Grey gets to "hold" her at least once a day and whenever he asks ("Booboo hold her?").  We encourage him to hug and kiss her and only have to remind him to do it "nice and easy" since she is still so small and fragile.  Grey has started now taking inventory of Gemma's body parts by saying, "Little fingers...little knees....little nose..." 


3. In the way we speak.  Kids take notice of every single thing out of our mouths; what we say, how we say it, and in what context.  This is perfectly exemplified in the fact that our almost 2 year old knows how to use curse words in the right situation...something I'm not proud of, but apparently we have used the word 'shit' enough times in his presence so that when I told him that 'Baby Gemma peed on the bed!' he looked at me with his head turned sideways with a smirk and said, 'aw, shit, mumma.'  So as we're trying to break his potty mouth before he blurts something inappropriate out at church, we are making every effort to talk about being a family in front of both kids.  Throughout the day, I am announcing things like, "Gemma is your sister, honey, that means you take care of her and love her."  And when B gets home from work, and we're all sitting together on the couch, I say things like, "this is our family!  we take care of each other" which sounds 100% like a cheesy preschool cartoon, but that's the point:)  

So far, we've had an easy transition period with Grey from an only child to a sibling; we haven't had any tantrums due to jealously (not to say we haven't had tantrums...good Lord, terrible 2's are in full force over here...full on meltdowns if he can't get his sock off).  I'm trying my best to make sure they both get alone time with me, time for all of us together, and "alone time" for the 2 of them (me observing but not participating in their 'playtime').  As the kids get older, we'll continue to encourage the same things only in new ways that match their age level and hopefully show them that they can play together (even if they like doing different things as a boy and a girl).  I wish for our kids that they will grow up knowing that they have friends for siblings, just like I did.  (thanks Mum & Dad)

Excuses girl

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's tab.
And I'm here to give you all the excuses why I haven't written a blogpost in a week.

I went to the park with the Fiore girls and my kids and we threw grilled cheese in the creek and pretended it was for fish

I watched the Descendants on demand (it was worth the $4.99)

I went back to sleep until 9a after feeding Gemma while Grey was staying with my parents overnight

I kissed a lot of Booboo's "booboos"  (and I'm not saying that to be sentimental, I mean literally - every time he bumps any body part on anything he comes over to me and says, "Tiss it, Mumma")

I put Greyson to nap just as Gemma woke up to be 4 times this week

I learned more about baby yoga because Gemma has a hard time every evening between 7p-9p and I'm hoping it will help her

I tried to get Trixie adjusted to her invisible fence collar (she hates it)

I took Grey to spend the afternoon with his Pappy Butch and I stayed and had lunch with my father-in-law because I needed to have an adult conversation

I changed all the bedsheets

I met our priest with both kids in tow to set a date for Gem's baptism

I went to the chiropractor

I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast

I talked to my sister on FaceTime and then she wrote this funny comment on my last post

I matched and folded approximately 34000 baby socks

I researched day cares for Grey

I had a beer with my husband while watching Cedar Rapids (which we thought was actually pretty funny)

I made a bird seed wreath and other bird treats toward our March kindness (more on that soon)

I made Greyson's bday invitations

I ate good food that I didn't make and enjoyed nice company (hi, Rummels and Mayers! Thanks again!)

I laid in the sun while Grey made mudpies

I told the dogs to stop barking.  a.lot.

I re-watched the Hunger Games trailer on hulu

And I did a lot of this (and by this I mean carrying our daughter around in the bjorn so she'd stop crying and get some sleep in the early evenings.  and by this I also mean having really knotty, dirty hair, but by this I did not mean making strange half-expressions like I am in this picture)

With all that said, I'm out of excuses.  Gem has started sleeping 5 and a half hours at night which has granted me the ability to function like a semi-normal human being during the day now.  And I'm honestly not even being a tiny bit sarcastic - 5 and a half hours is a big bonus from the 3 hours I was getting a week ago (ya feel me, right mommas?)  So this is my promise, I'm going to be better and I'm definitely going to get to writing:)  thanks for hanging around though in the meantime.  you guys are the best<3 

week 3 of the rotten 8

Thursday, March 15, 2012

first off, let me apologize for being so absent these last few weeks.  secondly, let me thank you for sticking around to see what's happening in our lives.  And finally, let me disclaim that I may or may not be fully awake while writing this...because we're in the middle of week 3 of what I like to call the rotten 8.  As in the first 8 weeks of an infant's life that are so exhausting that I have blackout periods.  I am feeling so much physically better after my crazy postpartum hospital adventure, thank goodness, and really the only issue we're still facing is the fatigue of the rotten 8 weeks.

Before I had Grey, everyone was trying to warn me of how tired I'd be after he was born.  The thing is, there is nothing anyone can say that can prepare you for this level of exhaustion.  So as our second time around through the rotten 8, I was already fully aware that this was going to happen...only now with the added bonus of chasing a little energized gremlin posing as my toddler around all day.  The only thing really to do is laugh at the hilarity of how it's possible to somehow function on zombie-autopilot to get through the day.  The following description of our morning earlier this week is in no way an exaggeration.  I'm not kidding.

While nursing Gem on the couch, Grey wanted me to throw a hockey ball across the room to him so that he could hit it with a hockey stick.  He'd walk over and hand me the hockey ball and before he could get to the other side of the room (what is that? 10 feet away, MAX), I was already sleeping.  S.L.E.E.P.I.N.G.  So that every.single.time he got across the room, he had to yell at me, "Ready, Mumma?  Ready now!"

It's a sad, sad state of being around here.  I'm trying to take as many pictures as possible so that in a few weeks when I properly wake up to life again, I will have an idea of what the hell was happening in our lives during the rotten 8.  Thanks to my dedication to this visual reminder, I know that some of these things have been happening so far in our first 3 weeks:

1. we've had amazing visitors that bring food and help clean and entertain my children while I lay half asleep nearby while occasionally lifting my head to say "no seriously, thank you for coming."

Uncle Jonny & Ninna

Gemma's best friend Lila (and her mum Stacy &dad Corey)

our husbands are best friends & now the girls will be too:)

my sisters introduced Gem to a little SCF time
snoozing with Aunt Uch 
my parents; Abba & Chum

Jojo, aka Grey's best friend

my best friends Katie & Allison (aka Karpy)

Brandon's parents Pappy Butch & Gigi

2. Grey has entered a 'rain boots are for all occasions' wearing stage.  as in he puts them on when he wakes up and then doesn't want to take them off.  all day.

here he had announced, "see ya Mumma.  Going to work"

He told me he was going to a 'basketball game" on this morning

indoors or outdoors - its always the rainboots
3. we've also done some visiting with friends and family members which meant I got to do more laying around only at my parents' house while other people tended to my offspring

getting energy out with Chum on the trampoline

Gemma meeting her cousins the Hagerich girls

Gemma gets to meet her 'honorary grandmas' Becky & Pam (my mom's friends)

more energy releasing:)  Hockey with Bryce & Al

My Grandpap and 2 of his (5) Great grandkids
4. And my husband and I have never acted more like partners as we've been attempting to tag team the two small humans in our house.  It really feels like us (me&B) versus them (Grey&Gem) and with the exceptions of our bedtime woes with Greyson right now and Gemma's growth feels like he & I might be on the winning team.

for those concerned:  we did NOT have a carbon monoxide leak.  it's just side effects of the rotten 8

In any case, we're attempting to get through these next few weeks with any sort of dignity possible.  Did we both fall asleep on the couches with the front door wide open last night?  I'm not going to say we didn't.  Did I attempt to brew coffee without putting coffee into the machine this week...more than once?  I'm certainly not going to deny it.  We're getting by, even if its only because our toddler has started to repeatedly shout, "Come on, Mumma!" when he sees me moving a little slow.  As we turn into the half way point next week, we're hoping that means climbing back up into semi-normal tiredness.  Until then, here's to not falling asleep while standing.

Feb kindness

Friday, March 9, 2012

Let's do a little rewind back to February to cover our kindness for the month.  We have set our February kindness as baking cookies for the local fire department for all 4 years of our commitment to the 12 months of kindness challenge, but this year was especially meaningful as Grey really got to be a part of it.  Early in the week leading up to Valentines Day, Grey and I took to the kitchen to tackle some cookie baking.  

Grey is now old enough to be able to help pour in ingredients (without missing the bowl), and even help stir (well kind of).  We talked a lot about why we were baking the cookies.  The conversation went like this:

Mum:  "Grey, what are we doing?"
Grey:  "makin cookies"
Mum:  "That's right, we're making cookies for the fireman"
Grey:  "yea, fireman.  cookies for fireman"
Mum:  "We're going to give them a surprise because they keep us safe."
Grey:  "yea"

Even still, when we talk about making cookies, Grey asks, "For the firemen?"  We made chocolate chip & cashew cookies (which were know we had to sample the crumbly ones!)  Once Grey went to nap, I whipped up a batch of chocolate covered pretzels to add to our care package.  Partly because they are easy and partly at 40 weeks pregnant, I was seriously jonesing for some sweet&salty snacks.

Grey and I attempted to drop off the cookies later that day, but since our local fire department is volunteer, there wasn't anyone at the fire house that day.  Later that week, while I was running errands and Grey was home with his Dad, I drove by to find some firemen in house.  So, I stopped alone and dropped off the cookies and our homemade thank you card.  The volunteer that accepted the kindness was a firewoman and (like happens every year) she was one part grateful and another part confused.  I explained that my family and I just wanted to show our gratitude for their bravery and dedication to our community, to which she thanked me and wished me good luck with my new baby (since my belly bump was all up in everyone's business at that point, hah).  

I love our February kindness, not only because it is fairly easy to thank our local heroes, but also because it reminds me how important it is to push yourself out of you comfort zone to reach out to strangers.  It can feel really awkward and embarrassing to knock on the door and reach out your hand to say this is me saying hello and thank you to you, face to face, in a world where we do most of that through the web these days, but I think its still important and I think it feels empowering.  I always go there feeling awkward about it and leave feeling proud.  

Then I got a valentines day surprise from my two guys.  February kindness is the best:)

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, I woke up early because I was too excited to sleep thinking about your arrival.  We were scheduled to have an induction since you were already 5 days overdue, but while I was aimlessly perusing Pinterest that morning at 5am, you decided that your birthday would be on your own terms, and you kicked my body into having contractions.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, Dad had to scrape ice off of the truck windows because he forgot to park it in the garage while I kissed Aunt Kitty goodbye since she had slept over.  I told her to give your big brother Greyson a kiss from me when he woke up that morning when we would already be at the hospital waiting for you.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, Dad held my hand while my whole body shook during transition and the nurse pushed back my hair and said, "Your children are lucky to have such a calm mother."  That was one of the nicest compliments anyone has ever given to me.  I hope someday you'll think that about me too.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, you barreled out of me so quickly that Dad got lightheaded and needed to sit down.  You surprised everyone with how fast you wanted to get out, after we had waited so long for you to be born.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, as soon as I saw your face I recognized you.  It was such a relief to have you here with us; like our family hadn't quite been whole before you were born but we had never realized it.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, I watched your Dad fall in love with another girl.  That girl was you.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, your brother Greyson came to meet you.  He had been our only child up until this day, so we didn't know how he would react to you.  When you cried, he cried too.  And when we asked him if you "could come live at our house" he said, "okay."  He was only 22 months, but somehow he loved you immediately; somehow he knew you were someone he is supposed to take care of.  Remember that your whole life, Gemma; your brother will always be there for you, just like he was on the day you were born.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, you should have seen the waiting room filled with the people that love you most.  You won't know until you have kids of your own, but there is almost no better feeling than knowing there are people in your life that will love and take care of your kids.  I wish I could tell you the exact number, but as a guess; the kisses you received that day must have been around eight thousand.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, your Godparents looked at you with so much love in their eyes.  Remember this Gemma, when you are too embarrassed to come talk to me, find them.  They will always give you a straight answer.

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, Dad said, "She's so beautiful." And I said, "Do you think maybe she was an angel?"  and he said, "yes."

On the day you were born, Gemma Rose, you joined our team.  No matter what happens in life, we are family and we will love you through all of it.  forever, and ever and ever.